At the end of a regular season unlike any other, the Army Black Knights and Air Force Falcons meet to decide the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy.
As everyone knows, Army-Navy is usually the conclusion of the annual three-game CIC Trophy series, the game which finally determines the winner of this coveted prize in service academy football. Yet, the twists and turns of the pandemic prevented Army and Air Force from playing on the originally scheduled date in early November. It just so happens that their Saturday showdown occurs after both teams defeated Navy, making this the clear-cut CIC championship game for 2020. Air Force and Army just reached an agreement to play their 2021 game not in Colorado Springs, but in Arlington, Texas, at Globe Life Field, the Texas Rangers’ new home ballpark. When they do meet in Texas, one will be the reigning CIC Trophy winner. Saturday’s game will determine which side comes out on top.
Let’s look at Army’s keys:
1 – Mentally refresh
Army just beat Navy. That is usually the final game of the regular season, the game which occupies a lot of mental energy and a lot of psychological value for any Army football team in any season. This year, however, Army not only has to play a game one week after facing Navy; it has to play another service academy team with the CIC Trophy on the line. It is hard to evaluate this game and predict what will happen because this is not a scenario any of us are used to. Nevertheless, success for Army begins with mentally turning the page and being focused enough to handle Air Force, especially the kinds of things coach Troy Calhoun likes to do with the Falcons’ offense. If Army is still thinking about the Navy game, this game probably won’t go very well.
2 – Ball security
Army did beat Navy, but the Black Knights nearly threw that game away when they fumbled close to midfield in the third quarter, leading 3-0. Navy very nearly got a scoop-and-score touchdown which could have turned the game around 180 degrees. Army has not been airtight with its ball security this season. Locking down the pigskin and not putting the ball on the turf will be an essential, central component of a winning performance. Army’s fumble luck existed against Navy, but the Black Knights don’t want to push their luck against Air Force.
3 – Short yardage
Let’s face it: This Army team doesn’t have an especially strong offense. It scored one touchdown against Navy and has been contained by a number of other opposing defenses this season. This game does not figure to be a shootout. Army doesn’t pass the ball very well, so it’s not as though Army is going to beat Air Force with real offensive versatility or balance. The Navy game was an old-fashioned, defense-kicking game-field position battle. It was cut from 1970s cloth in that the main key to victory was not to make more big plays, but to make fewer huge mistakes. That’s probably what we’re going to see on Saturday, with or without fog inside Michie Stadium. Army made a goal-line stand against Navy; it will probably need to come up with another short-yardage masterpiece on defense and do enough on short-yardage offense to dictate the tempo of this game versus Air Force.